Recent Comments

Eleanor Huntington

Do you think this type of digital literacy will lead to the widespread adoption of MOOCs as replacements for traditional learning?

Sarah Murray

Great post, Stuart. I wonder how “inspiration” as TED’s primary affective mode is mixed in with these characteristics you discuss above? In terms of something like metaphorical value v. empirical value, I think about the testimonials of TED participants that circulate online, describing their “life-changing” experience or how difficult it was to ease back in to the “real world” after watching or attending a TED event. The word “inspiring” is thrown around A LOT and seems to be the fuel on which a lot of the decontextualization and macro-vagueness that you point out runs. Through a sort of affective containment, TED positions itself and its audience outside the realm of certain types of efficacy, in a sense letting everyone off the hook through careful attention to the construction of a particular mode of engagement.

Eleanor Huntington

Thank you for distilling so many of the motifs of TED Talks by starting from the beginning. A lot of the points you bring up tie to the style critiques brought up in yesterday’s post and comment discussions.

TED is obsessed with social entrepreneurship and your description of how TED talks work to collapse spaces between far-flung locations is spot-on. It is through this collapsing that TED is able to motivate people to be more socially engaged, even though TED then stops and does not provide a way to become engaged. So many of the videos can lead to a righteous anger or a simple understanding in the viewer, but what would be much more effective is suggesting plausible and specific plans of action immediately at the end of every talk, to capitalize on the energy and motivation the talk provides.

Sarah Murray

Absolutely. And this has been the frame through which TED content has recently circulated - as a way of “learning” or “becoming” a better public speaker. I receive an email at least once a week that suggests I watch a curated list of TED Talks for this reason. The particular mode of articulation TED speakers are trained to offer in their presentations has been the subject of much criticism and can be placed under the umbrella of elitism for which TED receives the most flack.

I would say that the critique of performance, public speaking, and arguably, its entertainment quality is yet another way we might see the circulation of TED as user-driven and not as democratic, per se, but as a popular, cultural form.

Eleanor Huntington

I think another criticism that could be leveled at TED, and which is depicted with great humor in this particular video, is how the reliance on TED has created a very specific manner of public speaking. Because people (especially students and young, educated people) are accustomed to the way in which TED speakers act on stage and present information, this form has become standard. The heightened drama of “quack quack” and “cluck cluck” demonstrates just how this absurd and out of place this type of speaking can be.

Michael Rennett

Thanks for the comment, Maria! Yes, the tone and word choice are definitely contributing factors to how each is presented different. I doubt that any news sources would refer to Jennifer Lawrence’s “box” or “lady parts” being shown in her pictures, but treat her and the other female celebrities with a greater level of respect due to their higher social class.

Peter Scolari, Becky Ann Baker, Lena Dunham in 'Girls'
Michael Rennett

I’m intrigued by the role genre plays in these different examples and how it helps guide our reading of male nudity. As a dramedy, Girls has the ability to provoke both laughter and sympathy during these kinds of awkward moments while Campion’s use of male nudity is dramatic and adds to the story and ideology. I’m also remembering Judd Apatow’s promise to include a penis in every film he makes from 2007 forward (which he hasn’t fulfilled) and how part of that male comfort comes from it being shown in a comedic manner.

Maria San Filippo

Fascinating post, Kian. It occurs to me that the “burdensome” awareness of how one looks on the outside is, for many people of color, probably felt almost nowhere as strongly today than while awaiting TSA scrutinizing and the racial profiling that often accompanies it. Though these body imaging photographs threaten our privacy, health, and self-determined gender identities (irrespective of genitalia), they do allow for a certain degree of liberation from the determinations wrought by skin tone and other perceived racial markers. Were these photographs to be the sole means of identifying individuals who pose a potential security threat, might we gain a greater degree of equality before the law and the gaze?

Akil Houston

To engage the multiple identities in your scholarship is treason. It seems in many ways the expectation of the scholar is to cite the right sources, parrot the flavor of the month methodology and essentially say nothing through the skillful use of academic linguistic gymnastics. As a cultural studies scholar who works through media, music and culture I am more interested in using the tools of the trade to disrupt the status quo and invite ambiguity that challenges us to think in diverse ways about how we talk with each other and” to the screen”.

Natalia Andrievskikh

Thank you for your responses! I agree that the project, along with other similar attempts to “redistribute sensibility for non-mediatic bodies,” leaves open the larger question about the potential of such images to represent desired - and desiring - subjects. Maria’s comment reminds me of other instances of “fem-vertising” such as Always’ Like A Girl campaign (see for an enthusiastic account of how ads featuring women’s empowerment are boosting sales, without acknowledging the opportunistic nature of such ads). I am wondering if parody is, indeed, the most powerful antidote here, and whether we can detect an element of parody in The Nu Project itself, with its intended half-humorous, half-refractory attitude to the conventions of mainstream representations of nudity? Can laughter be commodified?